Browsing "Enemies of the Republic"

New Yorker’s Resist Conscription

The resistance to Lincoln’s conscription law became violent on July 13, 1863 as mobs fought New York City police and soldiers in the streets. With that State having predominantly Democratic voters, Lincoln seemed to levy a higher draft quota there and poor Irish immigrants would bear the brunt of forced military service — and feared freed blacks flooding North and taking all laboring jobs held by Irish. The author below relates that “Negroes had been hunted down all day, as though they were so many wild beasts, and one, after dark, was caught, and after being severely beaten and hanged to a tree, left suspended there until [police took] the body down. Many [blacks] had sought refuge in police stations and elsewhere, and all were filled with terror.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New Yorker’s Resist Conscription

“The ostensible cause of the riots of 1863 was hostility to the draft, because it was a tyrannical, despotic and unjust measure – an act which has distinguished tyrants the world over, and should never be tolerated by a free people. Open hostility to oppression was more than once hinted in a portion of the press – as not only a right, but a duty.

Even the London Times said: “It would have been strange, indeed, if the American people had submitted to a measure which is a distinctive mark of the most despotic governments of the Continent.”

It might as well be said, that because settling national difficulties by an appeal to arms has always been a distinctive feature of despotic governments, therefore the American people should refuse to sustain the government by declaring or prosecuting any war; or that because it has always been a distinctive feature of despotic governments to have naval and military schools, to train men to the art of war, therefore the American people should not submit to either.

[If troops] enough can be raised on a reasonable bounty, it is more expedient to do so; but the moment the bounty becomes so exorbitant as to tempt the cupidity of those in whom neither patriotism nor sense of duty have any power, volunteering becomes an evil. We found it so in our recent war.

The bounty was a little fortune to a certain class, the benefit of which they had no idea of losing by being shot, and hence they deserted or shammed sickness, so that scarce half the men ever got to the front, while those who did being influenced by no higher motive than cupidity, became worthless soldiers.

If a well-known name, [or] that of a man of wealth, was among the number [conscripted], it only increased the exasperation, for the law exempted every one drawn who would pay three hundred dollars towards a substitute. This was taking practically the whole number of soldiers called for out of the laboring classes.

A great proportion of these being Irish, it naturally became an Irish question, and eventually an Irish riot. It was in their eyes the game of hated England over again – oppression of Irishmen.”

(The Great Riots of New York, 1712 to 1873; Joel Tyler Headley, editor, Dover Publications, 1971, excerpts, pp. 137; 139; 149. Original published by E.B. Treat in 1873)

Russia’s Modified Capitalist Setup

In the mid-1930’s, FDR’s administration absorbed Soviet-friendly advisors and he actively courted the socialist and communist vote for election victory. FDR’s labor consultant since his governorship of New York was Sidney Hillman of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations), and who supported pro-Soviet Henry Wallace as FDR’s vice presidential pick in 1940 – which infuriated conservative Southern Democrats. Hillman created the first political action committee in 1936 which raised labor union money for FDR’s reelection.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Russia’s Modified Capitalist Setup

“In Churchill’s celebrated phrase, Russia may have been “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” but in the United States most people believed the two nations could work together without friction after the war. Fulbright was among them—and he was far from alone.

In ’43, everything Russian, from folk songs to Shostakovich’s symphonies was popular. At Madison Square Garden, Donald Nelson, the head of the War Production Board would share a platform with Paul Robeson and Corliss Lamont and tell a wildly cheering audience that the Russians “understand the meaning of a square deal and a firm agreement.”

Joseph Davies, the former ambassador to Moscow, would say that to question Stalin’s good faith was “bad Christianity, bad sportsmanship, bad sense.” Collier’s magazine, after studying the Russians at the end of that year would conclude that the Soviet Union was neither Stalinist nor Communist, but rather a “modified capitalist setup” evolving toward something resembling our own and Great Britain’s democracy.”

Life magazine in the same period, would call the Russians “one hell of a people” who “look like Americans, dress like Americans, and think like Americans.” Even Rotarian magazine was printing highly sympathetic accounts of Russia . . . And at the annual meeting of the DAR, Mrs. Tryphosa Duncan Bates Batchellor, a leading daughter, would describe Stalin as “a man who, when he sees a great mistake, admits it and corrects it.”

Indeed, as Irving Howe and Lewis Coser would conclude in a study later, for a realistic description of the Russian state “one could turn neither to the popular American press not even to the most extreme right-wing papers, but to such obscure and harassed weeklies of the anti-Stalinist left as The New Leader, The Socialist Call, and Labor Action.”

(Fulbright, The Dissenter, Johnson and Gwertzman, Doubleday & Company, 1968, excerpt, page 75)

 

Seward’s Analysis of Fort Sumter

Though a duplicitous and scheming politician, William Seward understood that any action to reinforce Fort Sumter would be an act of war, as was Major Anderson’s movement from Moultrie to Sumter. He further recognized that war on the North’s part would cause disunion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Seward’s Analysis of Fort Sumter

“The question submitted to us, then, practically, is:

Supposing it to be possible to reinforce and supply Fort Sumter. Is it wise to attempt it, instead of withdrawing the garrison? The most that could be done by any means now in our hands would be to throw two hundred and fifty to four hundred troops into the garrison, with provisions for supplying it five or six months.

In this active and enlightened country, in this season of excitement, with a daily press, daily mails, and an incessantly operating telegraph, the design to reinforce and supply the garrison must become known to the opposite party in Charleston as soon at least as preparation for it should begin. The garrison then would almost certainly fall by assault before the expedition could reach the harbor of Charleston; suppose it to be overpowered and destroyed, is that new outrage to be avenged, or are we then to return to our attitude of immobility? Moreover in that event, what becomes of the garrison?

I suppose the expedition successful. We have then a garrison at Fort Sumter that could defy assault for six months. What is it to do then? Is it to make war by opening its batteries and attempting to demolish the defenses of the Carolinians? Can it demolish them if it tries? If it cannot, what is the advantage we shall have gained? If it can, how will it serve to check or prevent disunion?

In either case, it seems to me that we have inaugurated a civil war by our own act, without an adequate object, which after reunion will be hopeless, at least under this administration, or in any other way than by a popular disavowal both of the war and the administration which unnecessarily commenced it.

Fraternity is the element of union; war is the element of disunion.

Fraternity, if practiced by this administration, will rescue the Union from all its dangers. If this administration, on the other hand, take up the sword, then an opposite party will offer the olive branch, and will, as it ought, profit by the restoration of peace and union.”

(Life of William H. Seward, Frederic Bancroft, Volume II, Harper & Brothers, 1900, excerpt, pp. 99-100)

The Unknown Tongues of Lincoln’s Army

With some of the North’s major cities boasting nearly 50% foreign populations, many drawn into Lincoln’s armies spoke little or no English and had little comprehension of original American political ideals and history. New York City itself in 1860 held nearly 400,000 foreigners out of a total of 805,000, with Irishmen and Germans amounting to 323,000 of that total number. Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, actively recruited in Ireland, England and Germany; by 1864 nearly one-quarter of the Northern army was German-speaking.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Unknown Tongues of Lincoln’s Army

“Probably no war has ever been fought in modern times . . . [which has] drawn men in whom justice burns brightly – knights errant; and no war has ever been fought to which have not gravitated men to whom fighting was as the breath of life – soldiers of fortune. Europe poured into the Union army hundreds of her best artillery, cavalry, and infantry officers.

Perhaps no better picture of the situation in regard to these adventurers is to be found than the one presented by the English journalist William Howard Russell. Writing on August 4, 1861, he said:

“There are daily arrivals at Washington of military adventurers from all parts of the world, some of them with many extraordinary certificates and qualifications; but, as Mr. Seward says, it is best to detain them with the hope of employment on the Northern side, lest some legally good men should get among the rebels.

Garibaldians, Hungarians, Poles, officers of Turkish and other contingents, the executory devises and reminders of European revolutions and wars, surround the State Department, and infest unsuspecting politicians with illegible testimonials in unknown tongues.”

There can be no question but that Seward approved and sought the enrollment of trained European officers in the undisciplined and raw American army. Through the American consuls abroad and through agents expressly sent to Europe, Seward encouraged war-eager officers of the Old World to cross the sea to find the fighting for which their souls thirsted.

[General George] McClellan received from General George Klapka, who had distinguished himself in the Hungarian [socialist] revolutionary army of 1849, a communication in which that Hungarian leader revealed that he had been invited by one of Seward’s agents to enter the Union army. Klapka was indeed ready to come, but shamelessly stipulated such conditions in his letter sent McClellan storming to President Lincoln, furiously demanding prohibition of such dabbling in military affairs by the Secretary of State.

As a matter of wonder and interest it should be recorded that Klapka demanded merely advance payment of a bonus of $100,000, a later salary of $25,000 a year, for a short period the position of chief of general staff, and later, after he had acquired a greater facility with the English language, appointment to McClellan’s place as general in chief of all armies!

How many German and Austrian officers were sought out through Seward’s agents cannot be established. Seward felt that volunteers should not be refused because they could not speak English.”

(Foreigners in the Union Army and Navy, Ella Lonn, LSU Press, 1951, excerpts, pp. 273-274)

War to Enhance the Power of Lesser Regions

Copperheads, or Peace Democrats, were not Southern secession sympathizers but those who saw peaceful solutions in compromises worked out in a Constitutional convention of the States, which would end the bloody war between Americans. Northern leaders like the eloquent and rational Horatio Seymour of New York were regarded with suspicion by Lincoln and his supporters, and nothing more than an ambitious schemer for power. They awaited an opportunity to put Seymour at a disadvantage, and then seek ways to remove him from office.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War to Enhance the Power of Lesser Regions

“The Democratic upsurge in the elections of 1862, the widespread suspicion of the federal government’s growing power, the deep popular objection to the abolitionists and the Emancipation Proclamation were all embodied in Horatio Seymour, newly elected Governor of New York. As chief executive of the Union’s most populous State, Seymour was in a position to assume the leadership of the States’ rights forces – a leadership that might take him into the White House. Seymour brought an integrity that was incorruptible and a scholarly intelligence beyond the wont of politicians. Neither quality, however – even when backed by the mounting discontent and growing war-weariness – could prevail against the power and propaganda of the national government. Abraham Lincoln beheld the rise of Horatio Seymour with well-place apprehension.

The governor’s inaugural address began by calling attention to his oath to support the constitutions of both the United States and New York . . . [and that] the rights of the States must be sacred. A consolidated government, declared the governor, would destroy “the essential home-rights and liberties of the people.”

With a realism strange to the political oratory of war, Seymour placed the unionism of the central and Western States on economic grounds; the West needed the Southern markets. But there were constitutional implications as well in the situation. Division of the country would produce a centralization of power. The small States, explained Seymour – and by small States he meant New England – were more willing than the larger ones to centralize power, because they had a disproportionate power in the national government.

The division of the Union, or the disenfranchisement of the Southern States – making them territories – would enhance the power of the lesser regions. And in turn, this concentration of political power would place the national economy in leading-strings to the limited economic pursuits of New England. The national debt would be owned on the Atlantic seaboard and would divide the country into the “perilous sectional relations of debtor and creditor regions.” Then, the Governor continued, the advantages of the protective tariff, growing out of this debt, would accrue to the same creditor States that enjoyed the excessive political power.

The only way to prevent these developments was the restoration of the Union – complete in all its parts. The vigor of the war would be increased when the national effort was concentrated on restoring the Union, and not upon a “bloody, barbarous, revolutionary, and unconstitutional scheme” that gratified hatred, party ambition, and sectional advantage!

Interspersed through this economic and political dissertation, and illustrating his exposition, were Seymour’s comments on the unconstitutionality of the Emancipation Proclamation, arbitrary arrests, and conscription.

Promptly the address became a sensation . . . [though] William Cullen Bryant of the Post ruminated that while Seymour spoke much truth on arbitrary arrests, yet these methods had saved Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri for the Union. But Horace Greeley, eschewing any thought of rationality, denounced the address as “dexterous dishonesty” concocted of cowardice, drunkenness, and masked disloyalty by a demagogue.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts, pp. 281-284)

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

After Sherman’s 65,000-man army entered North Carolina in early March, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith wrote friend Janie Robeson of nearby Bladen County and described the invasion of her home in Lebanon, North Carolina. This was near the battle of Averasboro, where Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s 10,000 man army former garrison troops stopped the battle-hardened veterans of Sherman’s left wing. All of Janie’s brothers were in Confederate service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865:

Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.

My experience since we parted has indeed been sad . . . Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy . . . [and] such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage.

[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something . . . The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.

I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep . . . Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.

Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk, but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”

(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History)

Isolationism and America

In his address on the Fourth of July, 1821, President John Adams reiterated the foundation-stone of American foreign policy with: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion only of her own. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication . . . [and in doing so] She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Isolationism and America

“[President George Washington said]: Put not your trust in allies, especially those who are stronger than you. At worst they will betray or disappoint you; at best they will make you the pawn in their games. Trust instead in the Lord and yourselves in your dealings with aliens, and cast not away the protection conferred by a generous Providence.

The second great tradition of US foreign policy is habitually dubbed “isolationism.” This, despite dogged efforts by some diplomatic historians to instruct us that no such principle ever informed American government, and that the word came into general use only in the 1930s.

In the post-Civil War decades the word “isolation” up more often, but as an echo of Victorian Britain’s slogan of Splendid Isolation. What brought “isolation” to the consciousness of the American public was the propaganda of navalists like Captain A.T. Mahan, who sought to pin on their anti-imperialist critics a tag that implied they were old-fashioned curmudgeons.

Thus the Washington Post proclaimed at the time of the Spanish-American War that “the policy of isolation is dead,” and the Oxford English Dictionary first made reference to the concept in 1901: “Hence, Isolationist, one who favors or advocates isolation. In US politics, one who thinks the Republic ought to pursue a policy of political isolation.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica never made “isolation” a rubric, and only after World War II did its articles on diplomacy refer to the phenomenon. Most telling of all, not even the “isolationists” of the 1930s had any use for the term, preferring to call themselves neutralists or nationalists. So, our vaunted tradition of “isolationism” is no tradition at all, but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.

Let us dispense with the term altogether and substitute for it a word that really describes the second great tradition in American foreign relations: Unilateralism. It was a natural, even inevitable corollary of the first American tradition, for if the essence of Exceptionalism was liberty at home, the essence of Unilateralism was to be at liberty to make foreign policy independent of the “toils of European ambition.”

Unilateralism never meant that the United States should, or for that matter could, sequester itself or pursue an ostrich-like policy toward all foreign countries. It simply meant, as Hamilton and Jefferson both underscored, that the self-evident course for the United States was to avoid permanent, entangling alliances and to remain neutral in Europe’s wars except when our Liberty – the first hallowed tradition – was at risk.

[And] if the United States became enmeshed in war and imperialism on the European model, it would have to raise large armies and navies, tax and conscript its people, and generally compromise domestic freedom, the [American] Republic’s raison d’etre.

[And if] it became enmeshed in foreign conflicts, the European powers would compete for Americans’ affections, corrupt their politics with propaganda and bribes, and split them into factions. And finally, if the United States joined in Europe’s rivalries, the arenas of battle would surely include America’s own lands and waters, as they had for over a century.”

(Promised Land, Crusader State, Walter A. McDougall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1997, excerpts, pp. 39-40; 42)

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Francis Perkins, belief that more Southerners wearing shoes would spark a consumer tsunami, is on par with New England’s early wartime belief that much good would come from giving former slaves land to cultivate on occupied Hilton Head and the Sea Islands. The logic was that the new-found wealth of the freedmen would be spent on Yankee notions and manufactured goods, and Northern industry would benefit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

“Some years ago Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins raised the temperature of many Southerners to fever height by suggesting that if the people of that section could be persuaded to wear shoes a veritable “social revolution” would result. The mass-production system of the United States, the secretary told a welfare council in May, 1933, depends upon purchasing power, the proper development of which would lead to prosperity beyond anything we “have ever dared to dream of.”

If the wages of the millworkers of the South could be raised to such a level that they could afford shoes, a great demand for footwear would result. Indeed, said the secretary, when it is realized that “the whole South is an untapped market for shoes” it becomes clear that great “social benefits” and “social good” would inevitably come from the development of our “mass-production system” to meet this latent consuming power.

Southern editors and speakers indignantly denied the canard that Southerners bought no shoes and retorted that such comments were only what might have been expected from a woman, especially one who knew nothing about the South.

It was even suggested that should all the inhabitants of the South suddenly wake to wearing shoes the resultant wear and tear on streets, sidewalks, and hotel carpets might cause grave financial loss to the area.

That was in 1933 . . . [and it was maintained that] Markets can only exist where there is demand; demand comes close upon the heels of knowledge. Knowledge, or education in the ways of the West, has therefore been considered essential if “backward” peoples are to be induced to purchase western goods. [Henry M.] Stanley, the African explorer, in an address before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, published in 1884 [asserted] that if Christian missionaries should clothe naked Negroes of the Congo, even in one dress for use on the Sabbath, “320,000,000 yards of Manchester cotton cloth” would be required . . . Should they become sufficiently educated in the European moral code to feel the necessity for a change of clothing every day, cloth to the value of [26 million pounds] a year would be necessary.

When the natives have been educated they would abandon their idleness and sloth, [John Williams, missionary to Tahiti said in 1817], and become industrious workers. Then, he asserted, they will apply to our merchants for goods . . . “

[When FDR called for a New Deal in the South] He certainly must have been aware of the implications of the thesis that the poorly housed, undernourished, and ill-clad Southerner must be given greatly increased purchasing power to enable him to better his economic condition, thus strengthening the demand for manufacture products and consequently improving the economy of the nation as a whole.

It is also certain that the concern which Secretary Perkins felt for the shoeless Southerner was not without precedent. When the armies of Grant and Sherman liberated the Southern Negro, the economic implications were not lost on the people of the victorious section. Following in the wake of the Union armies a host of teachers and missionaries flocked to the South, determined to Christianize and educate the freed Negro . . . with a decidedly abolitionist tinge, to be sure.

[These] people, their robes of self-righteousness wrapped firmly around them . . . carried with them the New England school, complete with curriculum, texts and method, but they also took with them the attitudes and beliefs of the social reformer and, specifically, the militant abolitionist. Politically, the teachers and missionaries became the tools of the [Republican] Radicals in their program of reconstruction . . .

Sensing in the alphabet and the book the key to the white man’s position of dominance, the open-sesame which would unlock the magic door of equality and wealth, the Negro, like the Polynesian, flocked to the church and the school. As one observer wrote, the “spelling book and primer” seemed to them Alladin’s [sic] lamp, which will command over all the riches and glory of the world. In brief, they believed that education was “the white man’s fetish,” which would guarantee wealth, power, and social position.

Some of the teachers [and missionaries] understood the inevitable result of the extension of freedom, Christianity, and education to the Negro – the development of a vast new market for northern goods, which would result in great profits to northern mills.”

(Northern Interest in the Shoeless Southerner, Henry L. Swint; Journal of Southern History, Volume XVI, Number 4, November 1950, excerpts, pp. 457-462)

The Liberal Obsession Since 1865

The Liberal Obsession Since 1865

“America [today] is not simply divided; she is fractured in a craze of spreading lines and hairlines that trace the boundaries of ideological, cultural religious, ethnic, and racial rivalries and resentments. The country is reaping the burden of a history shaped since 1865 by liberal thought and liberal politics.

First came the “reunion” of North and South – in fact, no reunion at all but the forcible union of institutional components of two broadly dissimilar geographic, social and political regions that from 1789 until 1865 were considered by the Founding Fathers and their descendants as sovereign States linked in voluntary and equal compact with one another.

National union at the cost of 618,222 men was succeeded by decades of the unrestrained free enterprise (excepting the tariff) favored by economic liberalism and a century and a half of increasingly liberal jurisprudence, liberalizing education, liberal secular metaphysics (described by George Santayana in Character & Opinion in the United States, published in 1920), liberalizing psychology, sociology, and economics, and their practical application: social engineering, the mass immigration of increasingly unlike, incompatible, and unassimilable peoples, multiculturalism, and the ensuing social confusion, resentment, chaos and public violence.

What used to be called the art of politics has long since become the abuse of it; while the most skillful government, unable to override or cancel history, is incapable of “solving,” or even adequately coping with, troubles of the fundamentally nonpolitical sort – what the country is experiencing today. And not the United States alone, but all the Western democracies.

On both sides of the Atlantic . . . governments are paralyzed by their inability to devise solutions to their respective crises compatible with the scruples of the liberal creed and the liberal agenda that have given form and meaning to their national projects for two centuries.

Liberalism is no longer capable of controlling liberally the liberal society for which it is responsible, and so far it appears that liberals would prefer to see their liberal world destroyed by barbarians, foreign and domestic, than to rescue it by illiberal means.”

(Liberalism in the Headlights, In Our Time; Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, September 2016, pp. 10-11)

Lincoln’s Pecuniary Interests at Council Bluffs

Though popular histories portray Lincoln as a simple and self-educated man who rose from a lowly background to become president, he was in reality a shrewd politician and wealthy corporate attorney. His clients before 1860 included the Illinois Central Railroad, then the largest railroad in the world, and an annual income of about $5000, more than triple that of the Illinois governor. After the War, Lincoln’s heavy-handed policy of military might was continued by his generals sent to eradicate the Plains Indians in the way of government-subsidized transcontinental railroads.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Pecuniary Interests at Council Bluffs

“A year prior to his nomination to the presidency — to be exact, in August, 1859 — he had visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, to look after his real estate holdings there and incidentally see the country.

A contemplated railroad to extend westward from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast was a live, but no new topic. For years such a possibility had been discussed, and in the first national campaign conducted by the Republican Party in 1856, a Pacific railroad was made a rather prominent issue. Shortly before his trip to Council Bluffs, Abraham Lincoln had purchased several town lots from his fellow [Illinois Central] railroad attorney, Norman B. Judd, who had acquired them from the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Council Bluffs at this time was a frontier town, containing about fifteen hundred people.

General [Grenville] Dodge . . . relates that “during Lincoln’s visit, some of the citizens of Council Bluffs took him to a high bluff known as Cemetery Hill, just north of the town. He was greatly impressed with the outlook; and the bluff from that time has been known as Lincoln’s Hill . . .

From here he looked down upon the place, where by his order, four years later, the terminus of the first trans-continental railway was established.”

The platform of the Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for president in May 1860 at Chicago, declared in the sixteenth plank:  “That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction . . . ”

General Dodge [said]: “There is great competition from all the towns on both sides of the Missouri River for fifty miles above and below Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the distinction of being selected as [the] initial point. President Lincoln, after going over all the facts that could be presented to him, and from his own knowledge, finally fixed the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad where our surveys determined the practical locality — at Council Bluffs, Iowa.”

(Lincoln and the Railroads, John W. Starr, Jr., Arno Press, 1981 (original 1927), excerpts, pp. 196-202)

 

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